Cabinet ministers root for chemical industries development, as Africas first premium soda ash plant opens at Tata Chemicals Magadi

Cabinet ministers of state, George Saitoti and Dalmas Otieno, have pledged to support strategic national policies aimed at facilitating the development of chemical industries in Kenya.

The development of chemical industries, the two ministers noted, will come in handy in attaining Kenya's Vision 2030 blueprint as the demand for chemical commodities in the global markets continues to grow.

Speaking in Magadi Township during a function to inaugurate a Kshs 10 billion premium soda ash plant at the Tata Chemicals Magadi complex, Prof Saitoti noted that foreign direct investments to Kenya from India had been enhanced as part of the Indo-Africa partnership programme.

On his part, public service minister, Mr Otieno, challenged local industrial concerns in the sugar sector to consider forming partnerships with chemical products producing companies. Such a partnership, he noted, could easily allow Kenya to start producing chemical polymers that are in high demand globally.

"We are now at a development phase where our industries must stop managing stagnation and forge growth partnerships," Prof Saitoti said.
During the function, R Gopalakrishan, global vice chairman, Tata Chemicals, confirmed that capacity enhancement projects recently undertaken at Tata Chemicals Magadi will now propel Kenya up the global ranks as the country gears up to produce close to 2 per cent of the world's natural soda ash.

The senior member of the Tata group, who was flanked by Michael Odera, managing director, Tata Chemicals Magadi, reiterated the global firm's commitment to continue investing in Kenya, while contributing to the national social and economic development.

From a technical perspective, Mr Gopalakrishnan explained that the new plant will now be producing a purer product, at 99 per cent purity, which is a key ingredient in the manufacture of flat, float and sheet glass, and related container glass.

"The importance of this new facility is particularly vindicated by the fact that global demand for soda ash is expected to reach 58 million tonnes by 2015 against the current demand of 49 million tonnes," Mr Menon explained.
He added: "With Tata Chemicals Magadi's production capacity expected to hit the 1-million mark before the year 2015, it's crystal clear that Kenya will be contributing close to two percent of the global production capacity. This is a major feat for Kenya."

On his part, Mr Odera disclosed that the capacity expansion programme will also raise the firm's export capacity through the port of Mombasa. Currently operating from a dedicated berth, Tata Chemicals Magadi is the single largest Kenyan exporter at the Kenya Ports Authority's Kilindini harbour, loading close to about 1,800 tonnes of soda ash daily.

Mr Odera further explained that Tata Chemicals Magadi operates on a 24-hour basis, delivering its product to Mombasa from Magadi Township through rail. With a fleet of eight mainline locomotives, Magadi rail operates and maintains more than 146km of railway line between Magadi and Konza and has also petitioned the government to fast track efforts to upgrade the Nairobi – Mombasa railway line to standard gauge status.

Soda ash in today's world is actually a key determinant of development worldwide. Soda ash applications vary from manufacture of glass to industrial and domestic chemicals for our everyday use. Production of natural soda ash is particularly significant, with Kenya having to compete against natural producers such as the US, China, Botswana and Turkey, among others. Synthetic producers include India, China and some European countries.